Kelsey Heenan Answers Your Fitness and Nutrition QuestionsApr 30, 2021
Whether you’re just starting your fitness journey or you’re looking ahead to your next challenge, chances are, you’ve got some questions. And who better to answer them than 4 Weeks of Focus trainer Kelsey Heenan?
As a trainer, Kelsey’s goal is to “help people feel empowered through fitness to be strong, healthy, happy humans — but do so in a way that isn’t so overwhelming,” she says. And if you’ve seen her posts, comments, and live videos in the 4 Weeks of Focus Facebook group, you know she’s an open book when it comes to sharing her tried-and-true tips for building strength and self-confidence.
How Do I Create a Healthy Nutrition Plan?
Openfit Teammate: Any tips for creating a healthy meal plan?
Kelsey Heenan: The One Minute Meal Plan in the Openfit app is a great starting point. It’s going to help you be more informed about the foods you’re eating, so you can get results and keep them for life. You aren’t a robot — you’re going to need different amounts of fuel on different days, and this can help you make simple adjustments according to what your body needs over time.
Openfit Teammate: What does a day of food look like for you?
Kelsey Heenan: I prioritize protein in all my meals, and then get a mix of different vegetables and carbohydrates and healthy fats. I eat when I’m hungry and until I’m satisfied. That’s a flexible way for me to be able to make sure I’m getting enough fuel, but also really paying attention to what my body needs.
Nutrition is an art and a science. You can know all the x’s and o’s of macros and calories, but a lot of times what gets in the way is the mental side of it, overthinking things like “Am I allowed to eat this? Should I feel guilty eating this?”
I focus on whole food ingredients for the majority of my meals, but I also think it’s really important to include flexibility. I do “pizza night Fridays” every week, which allows me to stay consistent.
How Can I Conquer Cravings?
Openfit Teammate: My biggest challenge is having sugar and carb cravings late at night. How can I stay on track?
Kelsey Heenan: The first thing to consider is: “Am I eating enough food throughout my day?” Because sometimes cravings come at night if you’re actually hungry.
Focus on eating more protein and vegetables throughout the day to satisfy that hunger. With the One Minute Meal Plan, you’ll have a really strong understanding of what foods will fuel your body well. In general, think about whole food ingredients like meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
You don’t have to view sugar as evil — that’s going to cause anxiety. It’s easier to think about: “What are some nutritious options to make sure I’m fueling my body really well?”
Fruit can be a nutritious option that also gives you that sweetness, or a square of dark chocolate. I personally like to make a little bit of protein pudding at night — I mix some of the Ladder Chocolate Plant Protein with a little bit of unsweetened almond milk and top it with a little bit of nut butter, chocolate chips, or fruit. That’s a really delicious option.
Openfit Teammate: I get hungry and blow my calories at the end of the day. Any suggestions for modifying the One Minute Meal Plan so I feel less hungry?
Kelsey Heenan: If you’re so ravenous at the end of the day that you just attack the refrigerator, we need to think about what is going to be sustainable. At the end of a meal, if you’re eating what is outlined but you’re still hungry, go back and get some more protein and vegetables to satisfy your hunger.
That can give you a little bit of flexibility, but you’ll still be able to understand the foods that are going to help fuel your body well.
Which Supplements Should I Try?
Openfit Teammate: What are your favorite supplements?
Kelsey Heenan: Ladder, hands down. I’ve worked with Ladder for a long time, and I just trust them so much. They do third-party testing on all of their batches, which means they go through the highest level of scrutiny to make sure everything that’s included is of the highest quality.
Ladder is NSF-certified for sport — a lot of professional athletes take these types of supplements, and they’re fueling their bodies with the best and the highest quality to ensure optimal performance.
I personally love both the Ladder Plant Protein and the Ladder Whey Protein. Ladder Superfood Greens is a great way to make sure you’re getting several of the vitamins and minerals your body needs — especially if you’re not a vegetable lover. And if you’re the kind of person who needs a little bit of a boost to get going, Ladder Pre-Workout can be really beneficial.
Why Am I Working Out But Gaining Weight?
Openfit Teammate: Is it normal to gain weight at first? I’ve seen changes in my body, which is great — but I’ve gained 2.6 pounds.
Kelsey Heenan: So, I’m going to give you the spiel on this. If you’re weighing yourself — and especially if you’re feeling discouraged by that — please listen up.
The weight on the scale is going to be eternally frustrating. Is it a data point? Yes, but it’s not telling you the whole picture of your results. It’s only measuring your gravitational pull. It doesn’t tell you anything about your body composition or your strength gains.
So many people are derailed by the scale when they’re actually making incredible progress. They’re dropping body fat and gaining muscle, so they look completely different — but the scale stays the same, or even goes up 2.6 pounds, like you said!
I am so passionate about this for so many reasons. People get fixated on that number, but you are so much more than a number, and I need you to realize that.
So, what can you be looking at instead? I could go on for days. I recommend taking pictures — that’s a great way to be able to see body composition changes over time. How are your clothes fitting? How is your energy? Are you feeling more confident?
The other thing to keep in mind is performance goals, like the fitness test in 4 Weeks of Focus. If you’re focusing on increasing your push-ups and squat jumps, then you’re going to be increasing strength, you’re going to be building muscle, and you’re going to be improving your cardio — which all contribute to burning more body fat. So when you focus on performance goals, it allows you to get the physical results you want as a byproduct — but you don’t have to worry about the scale at all.
What’s the Best Way to Lose Belly Fat?
Openfit Teammate: My problem area is my midsection. What should I focus on for best results?
Kelsey Heenan: It’s really important to keep in mind that we can’t spot reduce — meaning we can’t say, “I want to lose belly fat, so I’m going to do more crunches.”
By focusing on overall fat loss — with a combination of strength training, getting your heart rate up, and nutrition — you will lose body fat all over. Different people’s bodies will lose fat in certain places first, but just stay consistent and stay patient, because your body will catch up and you’ll be able to lose fat in the areas that you feel are your “problem areas.” It just takes consistency over time.
Openfit Teammate: Any exercise suggestions to help with love handles?
Kelsey Heenan: Focus on overall fat loss — through nutrition, and through dominating each and every workout. Just show up! These workouts are planned to help you be able to get super strong abs, so if you’re doing these workouts, you’re going to have a really strong core. If you’re doing squats, if you’re doing deadlifts, if you’re doing rowing exercises, you’re getting so much core strength from those — even if they’re technically not “ab exercises.”
What’s the Right Way to Do Push-Ups?
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Openfit Teammate: Can we talk about proper form on push-ups? How close together should my feet be? How far apart should my hands be? What angle should my elbows be at relative to my body? Any other tips?
Kelsey Heenan: I have a video on Instagram (find it here) with some quick tips for push-ups. Let’s start head to toe: You want your neck to be neutral — not looking down at your feet or with your head lifted up. You just want your eyes looking about a hand’s width in front of your fingertips, so your neck stays neutral.
Hands should be just about shoulder-width apart — maybe slightly wider, depending on what feels comfortable for you. A lot of times the hands will creep out, and that can put your shoulders in a compromising position.
Keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle will allow you to be in a really strong position. You may see Crossfitters doing push-ups with their elbows in super-tight — you can do that, but that targets more of your triceps, so you will burn out faster.
Next, we want our core to be super tight — abs tight, glutes tight — which puts your body in a nice, straight position. And then your feet can be directly together, or they can be a couple inches apart — either one is fine.
You want to be in a straight line from head to toe, and when you press your chest towards the ground, remain very straight like a plank. I like to say push-ups are moving planks.
Openfit Teammate: Which is better — more push-ups on my knees, or fewer regular?
Kelsey Heenan: Start by doing as many full push-ups as you can, then drop to your knees for the rest to modify.
How Should I Combine Strength and Cardio?
Openfit Teammate: I run every day, but I’ve gotten lax on strength training. Do you recommend running before or after strength training?
Kelsey Heenan: Keep in mind the 4 Weeks of Focus workouts are very tough, so you don’t need to add anything in — I recommend really listening to your body.
If you find that you do want to add something in, do your strength training first. You always want more energy for your strength training, because then you’re going to be able to get more out of it. It’s way better for you to show up fresh, crush your workout, and lift heavier weights over time.
Openfit Teammate: I love the strength training approach to losing weight, but if I want to incorporate other options like cardio or HIIT, how would I go about it?
Kelsey Heenan: A lot of times, people think cardio is just going for a run or doing the elliptical — but actually, cardio and HIIT are already infused into 4 Weeks of Focus. If you think about the full-body sweat phase, that’s essentially a form of cardio, but you’re also getting the benefits of strength training.
So I would suggest doing the 4 Weeks of Focus workouts — and then if you want add in walking or another cardio exercise, you can.
More Reps or More Weight — Which is Better?
Openfit Teammate: If you’re trying to get stronger and leaner, should you do more reps at lower weights? Or should you continually push your weight up?
Kelsey Heenan: It’s a huge misconception that you need to do a low to medium amount of weight for a gazillion reps to tone. A lot of people are also scared to lift heavy, because they’re afraid of getting bulky. But I promise you, it is very, very, very, very challenging to get bulky with muscle. Focus on lifting heavier over time with incredible form, along with quality nutrition and staying consistent — that’s what will help get the toning going.
How Should I Spend My Active Recovery Day?
Openfit Teammate: What are your favorite active recovery exercises?
Kelsey Heenan: I love going on walks — my husband and I take our dog on a walk almost every day. Walking is a really gentle way to get in some movement.
I think we really underestimate gentle movement like that. That was something a lot of us lost in this last year when we were all stuck at home. Typically we’re out and about — we’re going to the store, we’re taking the kids places, we’re going to meetings. So a lot of us are like, “I’m still working out, so why am I not seeing results?” Well, that gentle movement is important.
Other than that — I would consider myself an indoors-y person, but I do love a nice hike. Stretching and mobility exercises are also wonderful.
How Can I Get the Most Out of 4 Weeks of Focus?
Openfit Teammate: What was it like working with Shay and Steph?
Kelsey Heenan: They are incredible human beings. I just loved working with them, and they brought a really unique energy. They are who they are, and you guys are seeing the real thing.
Steph was enjoying the heavy weight lifting stuff all along, and Shay started to enjoy it after she was like, “Oh shoot, I’m really strong.” Shay was super fun and funny, and Steph was always very focused. They’re just awesome.
Openfit Teammate: What do I do after finishing two rounds of 4 Weeks of Focus?
Kelsey Heenan: The beauty of this plan is that you can repeat it and focus on increasing your weights and getting better at the fitness tests. I designed 4 Weeks of Focus specifically so you could keep making progress, so let’s keep the momentum rolling!
Results come from consistency, so these workouts are going to help you continually get stronger over time. I love to focus on basic movements in a fun way to help you get lasting results. That’s where real change happens.
I’m here for you, and I’m your trainer, so I want to help you feel successful, feel stronger, and get the results you want. This is not about perfection — if you’re super sore one day and need to take a day off, just get right back into it. If you go out with friends and you had a meal that wasn’t super nutritious, just make your next meal a really nutritious one and get right back into the groove. These are the things that are going to help you get results over the four weeks — and be able to keep them for life. We are about so much more than perfection.